History of Oronna Festival In Ilaro
Like the Brazillians, Nigerians are beginning to export culture through carnivals. The yearly Oronna cultural festival of Ilaro people in Ogun State, South West Nigeria is joining the leagues of Nigerian cultures that have been exposed to the international platform just like Osun-Osogbo Festival annually celebrated by the indigenes of Osun and the Black Heritage Cultural Festival in Badagry, Lagos. This year’s cultural festival is with the involvement and participation of Ilaro and all the Yewa sons and daughters in the diaspora.
The origin of the celebration of Oronna Day/Festival could be traced to the very beginning of Ilaro shortly after it was founded by Aro, a brave hunter and farmer from Oyo Ile sometimes in the middle of the 17th century. Not long afterwards, the settlement Ilaro (from Ilu Aro) was under the threat of invasion by the notorious and fearful Dahomean Army. Aro had no choice but to send message to warriors and princes in Oyo to join him in protecting the fertile land from the marauding Dahomean fighters.
One of the Oyo Princes and warriors that answered that call was Oronna who won many battles and became a Generalissimo in the defence of Ilaro from Dahomeans and other attackers.
Oronna’s exploits was great that he was recognised as super-human and in time assumed a deity figure. It was belief that Oronna enjoyed special support from Odua, the deity of the ancient town of Itolu as well as other deities from Oyo.
However, no enemy dare challenge Ilaro to war and even in death Oronna pledged to defend Ilaro people. Oronna is said to have disappeared into the earth following a provocation leaving the tail of a long chain tied to his waist as exit point from earth.
The point of his disappearance is now the famous Oronna Shrine which is now a tourist centre in Ogun State. It is at the shrine that all kings of Ilaro are crowned while most Ilaro people are called ‘Omo Oronna’.
The Chairman, Oronna Festival planning Committee, Chief Kayode Odunaro in an interview, said that the Oronna celebration is a unifying yearly socio-cultural event by Ilaro people in pursuant of their cultural tradition and a platform for self help initiatives to develop the community.
The Festival was celebrated formally since 1993 with Ogun State Government participation in one form or another. But in line with positive trends and the axiom that change is an inevitable aspect of human life, the Oronna celebration is now being rebranded and taken to the next level as a national and international tourism event with potentials to impact on the economy of Ilaro and Ogun State.
Speaking on objectives of the festival, he said it’s to position Ilaro on the world stage; encouraging the view that Ilaro town is a rewarding tourist destination; bringing back Ilaro sons and daughters to trace their root during this period, and collaborating with Ogun State government in her effort to develop tourism potentials of the state and also to showcase the growth and development of Ilaro town socially, structurally and economically; and identifying talents for further development.